Last Night with the Janney Family

This morning I woke up at 6 AM to get ready for church. I was worried about being under dressed so I wore my nicest shirt, tie, slacks, and dress shoes. I have a matching suit I brought with me, but I am saving that for when I meet the ministry heads or other special occasions in Kumasi. Jennifer warned me that they ask new people to stand up and sometimes they are invited to the front to tell the people who they are, where they’re living, and what they do for a living. Speaking in front of large groups doesn’t scare me, so I was more excited than anything. For some reason I also had a feeling there would be some good stories from this experience.

            We got to church and dropped Koteay off to go off with the children and do their special communion. Jennifer and I walked into the main church a few minutes late and sat down quietly. I brought a few Cedis to give during the donation time. I figured that experience was at least worth a few dollars and it was supporting a good group of people. Jennifer was telling me how some people who travel to Accra from other countries would come to this church and announce in the communion that they wanted a place to stay. The people would happily take them in and feed and house them. Before the Pastor spoke, they made a few announcement speeches. I have to say the first two people who spoke were not very compelling. They clearly weren’t the pastor and they just didn’t have much passion in their speech. I must admit I’ve never really been to church with a good pastor, so this is all just comes from my head somewhere. I have always wanted to go to a church that had a pastor with a voice like Martin Luther King Jr. Just listening to part of one of his speeches, you can instantly tell that he had been trained as a pastor. I especially like the parts of his speeches when he would get excited and his voice would begin to shake. Overall, it was an enjoyable and very short communion. When we let out, Jennifer went around and greeted all of her friends. I saw some new people and some repeat people that we had visited traveling around our daily errands. As we were on our way to find Koteay, I heard someone say “Young man!” to my right. I looked and there was a man walking straight toward me, but he had a phone to his ear. I figured he was just talking loudly on the phone. Then Jennifer said to turn because that man was calling me. Sure enough he got a few steps away from me and looked at his phone like his hand had been possessed and lifted it to his head. Apparently it was a better communion than I thought. He was very nice and wanted to know what brought me to the area and that church. That’s strange, how could he tell that I was new to his church? …Oh wait, I know why. It must have been the tie. The only other person wearing a tie were the men standing at the front. Anyway Jennifer later told me that he was the church architect.

            We found Koteay and left to visit Jennifer’s mom and dad. I met her mom first and she was very surprised at how dressed up I was. She said she was glad that I was breaking the American stereotype. Apparently Americans, in Ghana, don’t dress up very often. She wished me luck in Kumasi and gave me some last minute survival tips. She was already asking when I would come back and visit and she said that I needed to start planning that with Jennifer ASAP. We saw her dad and the first thing he asked me was “where is your suit?” He was definitely consistent with the way he spewed out questions, unfiltered. He didn’t ask me this time if I was married and didn’t urgently claim he would pay for it. We then went over to Auntie Sarah’s house. She offered me toast and tea and without me even responding was already preparing it. I even had my own little personal table set up in the kitchen. I had tea tea, toast with jam, and pineapple. I’m not sure if I mentioned, but tea here just describes a hot beverage. If someone says they will bring you tea, it could be coffee, hot chocolate, English tea, or just hot water. They asked me if I like coffee tea and I said I preferred tea tea.

            We got home and I changed out of my nice clothes. I called Amber, the Ghana Country Director, to see when we would be meeting today. Jennifer said she would drop me off on my way to take Koteay to a tutoring session. We met at Frankies on Oxford street, which was the big touristy area I had mentioned before. Other than my beach experience it was the place I saw the most Obronis since being in Ghana. I met Amber and we had a great introduction and discussed what I should expect for the next week. Her friend from the Peace Corps was apparently meeting us there. Apparently she was a teacher in a rural village in the Ashanti region. Expo is teaming up with her to train high school students for some training thing. I’ll be able to give much more detail later this week when we all have a work meeting in Kumasi. It was a really interesting conversation to be apart of. Here I am, just a little over a week in Accra. Amber has been in the country for 2 years and her friend was approaching her 8th month. Her friend complained, the entire conversation. She was saying how she was extremely introverted and liked being anonymous in a big city. Instead, she was in a very small area where most people would stop on the street and either knew her or want to know her. Sounds like she probably chose the wrong trip to go on, considering the peace corps is a little over a two year commitment. Anyway I didn’t let it affect my mood, but it was interesting to keep in mind as I get more comfortable in Kumasi. The whole experience with them was very strange because it had been the first conversation I had with people from my culture since I had left. I had gotten so used to my conversations with the Janney family that my brain was starting to shift that way. When I was with the two girls I was very conscious of the cultural expressions we used. They had become so unconscious from being immersed in it my whole life living in the US. Everything we said when I was with the Janney family had a purpose and when we were talking we were enjoying the silence and the good company. We never asked how someone was unless we were willing to sit there and actually listen to the response. For instance, after Jennifer, Koteay, and Amber were introduced to Amber, I asked how the tutoring session went. Most of the time in the culture I’m used to that was just asked to show artificial interest. I expected her to just say good. I’m not even sure why I asked her in front of Amber, it just came out because that’s what I’m used to. Instead of just saying good, Jennifer started talking about being able to afford it and expressed the whole situation. I immediately felt strange because that was probably the last thing Amber wanted to hear and it wasn’t a very good way to include everyone in the conversation. After we settled into a better conversation Jennifer told Amber that I’m practically Ghanaian already. Yes! I’m very appreciative to be adapting so quickly.

            On our way out we were heading down a one-way street, the correct way, and came face to face with another car. There were young men in the car and they weren’t happy we were in the way. They were yelling at us from their car and when we got up next to them, Jennifer lowered her window. I have to admit I got a bit worried here. I hadn’t been in a confrontation situation with Jennifer yet, but I could imagine it would be nasty real quick. She told them, actually fairly nicely, that they were heading in the wrong direction. The young man in the back insulted her and the top blew off. She started yelling and I was doing my best not to smile. Not because I thought it was funny, but more because I was extremely happy to be on the winning side. We stopped at her Aunt’s house and met her before I would leave tomorrow. She lived in a small lot with two houses and some yard. Jennifer told me that the other house was their family house. We were just in there for a short bit and her Aunt offered me many different kinds of food. We were about to pick up food, so I refused the offers. Jennifer told me right in that room, that this was the Aunt she warned me about. She told me that every time you were there you had to let her feed you or she would be offended. I made up for it by scheduling lunch with her the next time I visited. We picked up food and headed home.

            On the way home Jennifer told me that she found Anita, the kitchen helper, had been stealing some things from the house. I was shocked. She said that she would have to get her out of the house by tomorrow. We got home and I immediately went in my room to change. When I came out Jennifer was up in arms with Anita. This time was MUCH worse than our experience with the young men in the car. Anita was refusing all of it and got on her knees as she exasperatedly put her hand to the floor, then to her mouth, and finally to the sky. This was a bit over my head and I certainly didn’t want to get pulled into the tornado. I just stayed to my self in the living room. Then Charles came out and chimed in. He was very understanding and told her that if she had asked for any of that stuff they would have happily given it to her. Not to mention the money that the rest of the Janney family had provided her.

            After things calmed down, we sat down to eat dinner. Jennifer told me that this was the first time she didn’t feed Anita before her family. We sat down to a nice dinner and they pulled out a bottle of wine to celebrate my last night with them. They even gave Koteay a wine glass, which they filled with apple juice of course. It was the perfect end to such an amazing week. I couldn’t possibly give justice to the amazing kindness I have seen from the Janney family this past week. I will truly have a more enriching experience during my stay in Ghana for the next 6 months. A minimum of 6 months, who knows what will happen after that. Even though it’s only been a week, it doesn’t seem like I’m going to realize my calling is back in the US.

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2 thoughts on “Last Night with the Janney Family

  1. I don’t know how I can ever thank the Janney family for the loving kindness that they have shown you. Jennifer has been definitely channeling me as she has “mothered” you in my absence. I am so blessed to have Joseph and his wonderful family in my life and now yours.

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